Fats. The biggest problem with them is that there are so many of them and I get it: People get confused on knowing the difference between good fats and bad fats. Everybody out there is telling a different story, they talk about “healthy” and “bad” fat and try to put complex things in categories. Not the worst approach, but let’s try to get some real structure in here based on biochemical facts.
Let’s start from the beginning: If you would have asked me a few month ago what importance fat has in our life, I would have responded with “Yes they are important, for example for building our hormones and also for our brain. Mostly make sure that you get enough omega-3 fatty acids (poly-unsaturated), because they are essential for you (so your body can’t produce them by itself).”
So is that statement wrong? Not essentially, but after exploring my own body changes and understanding the different roles of fats in our body, the starting point should be somewhere different. Before we zoom in to fats, we have to understand that fats are just a subcategory of the main category called lipids. Lipids are any organic compound which contain any source of fatty acids. That includes also lipoproteins (like HDL and LDL: you probably have heard of them in the context of cholesterol) and phosphor lipids. Quick heads up: If one theme is important to understand, you’ll find more information in this blog article about it. On the other hand, if, in my opinion, there is no need to talk to much about it, there will be obviously less written about it. My goals is to keep it simple but informative for those who want to understand the wild jungle of fats better.
Good Fats and Bad Fats
So were do we start? Everybody of you heard of the saying “You are what you eat”, right? Well, turn it around and you get: “You eat what you are.” So what does the human body contain what we should eat? We consist of mostly water (around 60-70%), saturated fat/cholesterol (average around 15-20%) and just a few amount of carbs, minerals and vitamins. That’s why we should start from the bottom up eating more saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet.My coach used to say to me: “Marvin, cholesterol is your friend”. Why this is just true you can read more about in our last blog in my own personal story. First this is what we’re made of and your body requires what you’re made of: If you look at the human cell membrane you’ll see that it contains in the inside cholesterol and it’s surrounded by phosphor lipids (later more). Cholesterol, a sterol containing metabolite, is not just our friend when it comes down to produce pre vitamin D, sexual hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and cortisol (stress & activation), but it’s also a structural molecule which keeps the membrane in it’s form. Without cholesterol we would just fall to the ground like a sand sack, because our cells wouldn’t have any stabilization.
Saturated fats on the other hand are the number one fuel when it comes down to energy burning. But wait, you might have heard about that sugar/glucose is the number one preferred energy source. Well, that is just one possibility to look at it. Just because your body can use it faster than fats, doesn’t mean that it’s also the preferred one. Fact is, in our evolution we were depended on saturated fats from animals. And if you look at the pictures from back then, these people were pretty fit and were looking great (and remember, that wasn’t even their goal, the goal of the human rase was and will always be survival!). Why? Because they were mostly eating animals which contain a lot of fat. Automatically they kept their energy sources depended on fat and their blood sugar levels stable. Without the release of insulin it’s a lot harder for the human body to put fats on, because fats can leave the body, carbohydrates can’t. At some point because of climatic changes these animals couldn’t survive anymore and the humans had to find another, and by the way a pretty damn cheap and so commercial, way to feed their rase: Carbs production and the industry for it were born and all the disease popped up. Also there’s a good amount of saturated fats found in the human brain. Your brain works perfectly with those fats. Fun fact: Scientist found out that meat/egg eater (carnivore) brains are bigger than vegan brains. This is no attack to vegans, just a fact. The reason for that is simply they’re missing (besides of avocados) a huge amount of these fatty acids. In conclusion: You should eat a good amount of these fats to stay fit. One more tip: As rawer the product is, as more you’ll get out of it.
Here you can find a list of the best sources of saturated fats and cholesterol, listed by importance:
- Liver organs
- Grass fed meat: beef, lamb, pork (included bacon)
- Organic/local eggs
- Raw cream and milk
- Coconut and coconut oil (doesn’t contain cholesterol)
- Avocado (one of the only saturated fat plant sources) (doesn’t contain cholesterol)
If we follow our fat journey we have to make the next stop at mono-unsaturated fats. Now we’re drifting more and more into the direction of plant sources in fats. I call that on purpose “we have to make”, because it’s not necessary to consume than in a high fat low carb diet. If you look up benefits of monounsaturated fats on Google, you find as a number one reason to lower the “bad cholesterol LDL”. It impresses me every time how much BS can be found in just 3 words by a lack to knowledge: First, if you read the paragraph earlier, in general cholesterol itself is never the problem. It’s a lipid and has been part of us as long as we’ve existed. Second, we have to differentiate between big fluffy and small dense LDL. Imagine a transporter with fuel and it’s docking station (the cells). LDL is the transporter and it’s job is to bring fat (the fuel) from our liver to your cells to use it as energy. HDL on the other hands brings fat from your cells back to your liver. If your LDL is high and you’re depended on fat with a stable blood sugar level, that is a good sign and you’ll be fine. LDL is big and fluffy and can’t get in the blood vessels to block them (which is considered as arteriosclerosis). The small dense LDL can do that but it will only appear with the presence of high glucose levels at the same time.
So are mono-unsaturated fats totally unnecessary? Not essentially, they have their reason to exist like the benefit of denser bones. But here’s the thing: Your body is smart enough to produce them by itself out of saturated fats. You don’t have to worry about it to much. If you still want to throw in some MUFAs (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) in, here are the best sources:
- Olives and olive oil
- Nuts: Almonds, macadamia, pecans
Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Last but not least, we have PUFAs (poly-unsaturated fatty acids). We can differentiate them into Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The 3 and the 6 refers to the double bounced carbon on the fatty acid. Although they look pretty similar, they’re not: As we couldn’t identify some bad fat so far, here we have our first candidate for the second place on the list: Omega 6. These PUFAs tent to cause inflammation inside of our body, while Omega-3 works anti inflammatory. Omega 3 you can separate in ALA (alpha linolec acid) , EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic Acid). Above I talked about why vegan brains tent to be smaller than non vegan brains. A big reason for that is that they’re missing a lot of DHA in their brain. It’s such an important acid to make our brain grow and functions in the right kind of way. Make sure you get enough of it if you want to remember stuff :).
Important to know is that a lot of products with PFUAs contain both: Omega-6 and Omega-3. As they work kind of against each other, it’s more about the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 you get in your food. Unfortunately lot of of our foods, especially processed ones, contain a high amount of Omega-6. But not just in there, also in any seed and seed oils you can find a high amount of those fatty acids. So try to stay away from that as best as possible. Instead stay with the following resources of a great ratio of Omega-3 acids:
- Grass fed meat (because the animals who eat the grass obtain the fatty acids out of it)
We almost made it trough our journey of fats. There are two more thing need to be mentioned: First the phorphor lipids which you can imagine like a protector. They are part of our out shell of the cell membrane by making sure that the cell keeps is structure by keeping cholesterol in the inside and protects it from molecules which don’t belong in the inside of the cell.
On the other hand we have the one fatty acid every is indeed afraid of: Trans-fatty-acids. While Omega-6 fatty acids are kind of ok in a certain amount of consumption in your body, you want to avoid trans-fatty-acids completely. By the way: They’re named like this because of the position of the double bounded carbonate in the fatty molecule of unsaturated fats. We call that trans position. That can happen mostly trough overheating processes. That is why you should avoid to cook with olive or seed oils in you pan, because this is when these transition to the trans-fatty-acids happen. Instead use a heat stable fat like butter and coconut oil in your pan so this can’t happen. Here’s the problem once again: Most of the food industries don’t care about your health, they care about your money. You would be shocked in how many convenience foods we find those acids. The reason why you want to avoid them completely is cancer. There have been clear studies made and it’s been proven that there’s a correlation between trans-fats and the high risk of cancer inside of your body.
Most of your diet should contain saturated fats, flaked by some high quality Omega-3 sources with the right ratio. Also just use butter, ghee and coconut oil to cook and heat up food in your pan.
Thank you for taking your time to read this and feel free to click here for more information on fats.